A PhD code of practice

May 31, 1996

Your editorial (THES, May 24) erroneously maintains that our proposals for reform of student maintenance are "highly regressive". You also misunderstand the important role of public-private partnerships in the advancement of our proposals. Our repayments will extend payment over 20 years. At present, graduates must repay loans in five years. No graduate will have to pay until they are earning above a minimum threshold. The loans will depend on ability to repay, not ability to pay. What they will bring to the system is fairness, coherence and efficiency, as well as an end to the invidious system of assumed parental contributions (which may or may not materialise).

The proposals we have made to Dearing are based on public-private partnerships. We have proposed that they be collected through national insurance, minimising default and reducing collection costs. As such, the new system should represent an attractive investment for institutions such as pension funds, seeking secure long-term returns.

In raising private capital to finance the Pounds 1 billion spent on grants and the Pounds 600 million spent annually on student loans (as well as the sum spent on assessed parental contributions), we will release at least an extra billion pounds for higher education.

We have also asked Dearing to examine anomalies, such as part-time fees, and have made wide-ranging proposals, some reported on your front page. That is why the proposals have been warmly welcomed by students, university teachers and vice chancellors, as well as your sister paper, The TES.

Bryan Davies Shadow further and higher education minister

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